Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Professor Ian Davis, Cranfield Disaster Management Centre

1.  Observations on Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Strategies

Figure 1


  Firstly, I would value the opportunity to briefly discuss with the committee the broad focus of National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies, as these must develop in coming years to cope with the expanding threats from disasters. The "Chain Model" provides a useful representation as a basis for discussion concerning some difficult questions:

  What can "we" in the UK Disaster Community (ie DFID/ DEFRA/ NGO's / Academic Researchers, Trainers and Educators / Private Sector / Advisory Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction) do to actively support:

    —  full integration and coordination of the disparate elements in this "risk reduction chain" or is this an unrealistic quest given the scale and complexity of such a task?

    —  creative ways for developing countries to effectively synchronise poverty reduction and risk reduction strategies;

    —  developing countries, as they seek to decide which of the elements in "protection chain" should be given priority attention?

    —  the development of relevant and realistic links between national disaster risk reduction strategies, or systems and the better established and much better funded national disaster response structures or systems;

    —  capacity building within developing countries to reduce their vulnerability to extreme natural hazards;

    —  radical improvements and the urgent expansion of in risk assessment methodologies to underpin the development of risk reduction measures. Particular attention needs to be devoted to the development of Vulnerability Assessments: (Social/Physical/Economic and Environmental). In addition work is needed to develop "Loss Estimation" to enable societies to be able to calculate potential losses in order to justify the costs of mitigation.

2.  Evidence concerning the progressive development of sustainable "National Safety Cultures"

  Secondly, I would value the opportunity to develop the Risk Reduction emphasis further by discussing the development of sustainable National Safety Cultures on the lines of the following model:

Figure 2


  Four stages can be identified on the diagram above:

    —  Stage 1 Rudimentary Level

        (where risk reduction is still at the level of Political Rhetoric)

    —  Stage 2 Basic Level

        (where risk reduction is still at the level of Logical Argument)

    —  Stage 3 Developed Level

        (where risk reduction has been codified in Laws and Codes)

    —  Stage 4 Advanced Level

        (where an overall, well-integrated Seismic Safety Culture is in place).

  What can the UK Disaster Community, as noted above, do to actively support:

    —  highly disaster-prone countries to move from "rudimentary levels" of risk reduction in the direction of more advanced levels?

    —  the development of "Human Resource Development" (HRD) as critical elements in sustainable structures, strategies and systems to reduce risks;

    —  creative, and sustainable partnerships between public and private sectors, perhaps on the lines of the US development of "safe communities" in FEMA's "Project Impact", the innovative public links to insurance companies by using the incentives of reduced insurance premia to create safer conditions;

    —  far better ways to absorb, or diffuse disaster risk reduction so that it is not isolated from all line ministries and everyday life;

    —  the political process as a key element in the creation and maintenance of public safety.

Recommendations for the Committee to consider:

  1.  That the "Advisory Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction" is charged with the creation of an inter-disciplinary, multi-hazard and multi-sectoral "task force". This would be asked to work in a creative partnership with DFID staff to develop a series of benchmarks and performance targets for the development of workable and realistic National Risk Reduction Strategies and Systems. The aim would be to develop strategies for risk reduction that support and interact with poverty reduction initiatives. This work would then need to be developed in close consultation with relevant UN Agencies in order to be applied by disaster-prone countries with the active support of DFID.

  2.  That DFID provide a clearly defined and well resourced National Focal Point in the Risk Reduction field, in order to:

    —  enable more focused, and better coordinated work to be undertaken by the broad community of UK groups working in this field;

    —  assist in productive dialogue between these groups and government;

    —  link to the broadening UN commitment in this field;

    —  provide an easy access point for disaster risk reduction officials within developing countries to gain access to UK based resources in NGO's, Private Sector and in Universities. (This would link to the work of all DFID regional offices); and

    —  provide a technical link for DFID staff in their regional offices, as well as geographical desks, to gain useful risk reduction information and human resources to assist them in advising country officials in their respective areas.

Professor Ian Davis

Cranfield Disaster Management Centre (CDMC)

Cranfield University

February 2002

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